|January 22, 1998|
UP Guns Down UST 3-0 in UAAP Tennis
T he UP Men's Tennis team survived a punishing encounter with a gritty UST squad at the CHK courts last Sunday to extend their winning streak to five matches and remain unbeaten in the six-team UAAP tournament.
The Maroons banked on gutsy performances from singles player Glenn Remigio and the doubles tandem of Ritchie Lozada and Tonyboy Villar to pull out a hotly-contested 3-0 sweep over the Espaņa-based Tigers. The victory moves the UP team one step away from a repeat of last season's unprecedented 10-0 two-round sweep.
It was sibling rivalry in the day's first singles match-up as the Remigio brothers, UP's Glenn and UST's Bobby, went head to head to settle family business on center court. With both brothers possessing powerful return of serves and identical baseline games, watching the match was almost like watching a person play tennis against themself.
The first set began with both players content to hammer away from the baseline. After four games the set was tied at two-all. Glenn had the stronger serve and forehand, both of which he was using to good effect in the match. Even though Bobby was able to hold serve twice more to keep himself within striking distance of his older brother at 3-3 and then at 4-4, it was becoming obvious that the game's momentum was shifting in UP's favor.
Sensing the time was ripe, Glenn Remigio kept his brother at bay with three aces before setting up a triple set-point opportunity at 5-4 with a spectacular drop shot off a UST forehand. Even though the Tiger was able to save a set-point with an ace of his own to edge closer at 15-40, the elder Remigio would not be denied. A powerful passing shot settled the first set 6-4.
In the second set the Maroon was just unstoppable as he steamrolled over his own brother for an easy 6-4,6-2 victory to give UP a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three tennis tie.
The day's most entertaining game, however, was the pivotal doubles match-up between the UP duo of Villar and Lozada against UST's Aldin Lin and Dennis Sta. Cruz. In a game that was lacking neither tension nor drama, the Maroons emerged victorious in one of the most thrilling encounters thus far in this season's UAAP tennis wars.
UP controlled the match early on with blistering groundstrokes and a mammoth service game to erect a 3-1 cushion halfway into the first set. The Tigers regained their composure and held serve at 3-2 before a string of errors by the Maroons allowed them to tie the match at 4-4. At this point things began to get interesting. With the UST tandem facing triple set point at 5-4, Tiger Dennis Sta. Cruz totally lost his cool. In a spontaneous burst of emotion, the frustrated Tiger bashed the net with his racket and screamed before his coach went on-court to pacify him. This hot-tempered display was apparently succesful because UST was able to claw back from the deficit and hold serve to tie the game at 5-5. The Maroons, however, proved that hysterics do not win ballgames and broke the Tigers to regain the lead at 6-5 before winning the set at 7-5 off a UST double-fault.
The Maroons began the second set aggressively with UP player Ritchie Lozada catching Tiger Aldin Lin with a volley to the face to draw first blood at 1-0. The rest of the set would not go UP's way, however, as a determined UST tandem battled the Maroons toe-to-toe to take the lead at 5-4 before capitalizing on unforced UP errors to take the set six games to four.
Before the start of the match's final round, a visibly upset UP Coach Butch Bacani could only swear loudly as he gave final instructions to the faltering Maroon duo.
This had an immediate effect as UP came out with all guns blazing to post a 2-0 lead at the start of the third set. The Maroons were not able to keep this up, however, as a tiring Ritchie Lozada surrendered unforced error after unforced error to allow the Tigers to take the lead at 3-2. With his partner faltering and an imminent UP loss looming large on the horizon, Tonyboy Villar took the game into his hands with three straight monster serves to even up the match at 3 games apiece.
The Maroons game plan turned awry once again when Lozada's game totally went south in the final set's seventh game, allowing UST to pull ahead once more at 4-3. This prompted Coach Bacani to call an impromptu time-out on the UP sideline in a desperate attempt to rally his team.
His exhortations were not lost on the Maroons. On the verge of collapse from sheer exhaustion and with the pressure on, Lozada dug deep within himself to hold serve against the overconfident Tigers and tie the match at 4-4. He followed this up with a booming forehand in the next point to break serve and allow UP to retake the lead at 5-4 and serve for the match. With the game on the line, a reinvigorated Maroon duo pulled out all the stops and battered the shocked Tigers into submission for an emotional 7-5,4-6,6-4 come-from-behind victory.
Asked to comment on his near-collapse and amazing recovery, UP player Ritchie Lozada could only reply "Hindi ko maintindihan, ang sama ng game. Inisip ko na lang 'yung mga na-practice namin. Pag mga ganoong klaseng situation you really have to go back to the basics. Buti naman it turned out OK."
With the outcome already decided, national player Michael Mora handily disposed of Kem Sta. Maria 7-5, 6-1 to round out the three-game sweep.